I remember this fanzine coming out a few years ago and I was super impressed by the great cover art by Matthew Ray. It's nice to see this collection includes all of Matthew's covers plus a new one for the main book cover.
I didn't pick this zine up or read it before now. I MIGHT have it in PDF and just never got around to looking at it?
Anyway, it's a very nice looking book. The cover is hard and heavy and the whole book feels weighty and substantial in your hand. This is probably because the paper stock is decent and it's on glossy paper... kind of like a glossy magazine but heavier.
The binding is glue, so that's a downside. I feel like some of these pages are eventually going to come loose. Plus it means the book doesn't lay open. It wants to close when you open it up. Not a huge downside - I'm just spoiled by all these mega deluxe boutique hardbacks I've seen over the years. Still, even really nice, solid hardbacks don't always lay open flat. Old School Essentials Rules Tome is very nice and sewn-bound but it won't lay open, generally.
The title on the spine is not aligned so it's hovering close to the bottom edge. I suspect either a mistake in layout of in printing. Of course, duh. But it's really not a big deal unless you are super OCD about that stuff. Which is fine.
The layout is uber-basic and Thom Wilson, the publisher and author, uses the classic B/X Souvenir font (or perhaps Soutane, a similar knock-off?). This two-column look is immediately nostalgic. I do like that quite a bit in a "let's watch Andy Griffith" sort of way. But the full justification of the paragraphs is a bit jarring - not much use of kearning or adjusting the space between words. A bit awkward, which is kind of lovely in fact. I'm kind of a fan.
I also noticed some typos and other errors. I see that a lot in small press books. Again... I'm not going rag on that. These are labors of love and I am here for it. Editors and layout geeks may cringe but if they love old school gaming and small press publishing they also gotta smile.
Of course none of that matters if the content is no good. In this case that's not a problem. Again, if you're into old school RPGs and B/X D&D in particular, this is a tasty dish of yummy. Each of these short 10 issues is chock full of adventures, monsters, NPCs, magic items, spells, maps! And an interview in each issue with some old guard of the hobby.
And it is a zine. Like... proper zine. It has ads and want ads and product spotlights.
Here's my takeaway: If you like B/X D&D, you will enjoy this book and you will get some use out of it. There are plenty of little adventures to run in here and lots of simple new magic stuff to play with. If you like small press TTRPG books you will dig this. It's got a lot of cool bits.
So don't let any of my criticisms of the physical book or layout deter you. I do kind of adore this book. I honestly wouldn't want it to be any other way! This is in my wheelhouse.